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Declare Steve Fossett dead, asks adventurer's widow

'We must accept that Steve did not survive'

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The wife of missing adventurer Steve Fossett has filed a petition for her husband to be declared legally dead, some three months after the 63-year-old disappeared without trace in the Nevada desert.

Despite a huge search operation mounted following Fosset's evidently ill-fated 3 September flight from Barron Hilton's Flying M Ranch, roughly 70 miles southeast of Reno, neither he nor the remains of his Bellanca Citabria Super Decathalon have been found.

Mary Downie, one of Mrs Fossett's lawyers, told the Chicago Tribune: "Although an ongoing recovery mission continues, all involved have accepted the inevitable conclusion that Mr Fossett did not survive."

Accordingly, Peggy Fossett has now asked a judge to "begin the process of distributing her husband's assets according to his will", the Telegraph explains. The petition, filed in a Chicago court, said: "[Steve] Fossett's wealth is vast, surpassing eight figures in liquid assets, various entities and real estate."

This process of distributing childless Fossett's assets "could take two to three years", the Telegraph adds.

Peggy Fossett issued a statement which said: "As anyone can imagine, this is a difficult day for our family. We will continue to grieve and heal, but after nearly three months, we feel now that we must accept that Steve did not survive."

The statement further denied rumours that Fossett had planned his own disappearance. It insisted: "None of Steve's wealth was transferred out or withdrawn in any manner that would suggest a planned disappearance. Steve has not accessed any of his assets since his disappearance. Steve had no debt and no life insurance." ®

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